Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Blog

Last week, we noted with concern when soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he understands the “special relationship between Israel and the United States,” and that House Republicans will be serving as a “check” on President Obama’s policy. 

The meaning of Cantor’s comments in this context was not ambiguous; particularly at a time when President Obama is at odds with Netanyahu over settlement expansion. The comments sent shockwaves in the blogosphere, leading Ron Kampeas from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to note:

I can't remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.

MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters echoed the sentiment, saying:

No American official — by any stretch of the imagination — has the right to tell the government of Israel, or any foreign government, that he stands with the foreign leader against his own president.

Presumably feeling the heat, Cantor backtracked on his comments today when his office issued another statement noting that House Republicans’ function as a “check” on the administration was not meant in relation to Obama’s Middle East diplomacy efforts.

MJ Rosenberg went on to ridicule the clarification, saying

So Cantor's pledge to stand with Netanyahu against Obama was "not in relation to US/Israel relations" despite the context of Cantor's statement — just before Netanyahu's meeting with Clinton — and the fact that the person he was talking to was the Prime Minister of Israel. So, what was Cantor's pledge "in relation to"? Was it in relation to either repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or the Bush tax cuts for millionaires?  Maybe it was about farm subsidies. Come on, Eric. Don't make us laugh.

Rosenberg noted that there was no misunderstanding of what Cantor initially said, but that what often counts as a gaffe in Washington is when a politician inadvertently says what he actually meant.